Sundance Film Festival

I went to Sundance again and it was great

I have sadly neglected my blogging duties of late, but I’m working to correct that issue by blasting through a few important bits of news concerning my current life.

Two weeks ago, I returned from my third trip to the Sundance Film Festival, and as my title might tell you, I enjoyed my time. The weather was the worst it’s been in my experience, but a few feet of snow hold no power against my will to see films and celebrities.

Without going into unnecessary detail about all parts of the trip—if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for, I’m more than happy to share at another time—but I’ll fill you in on some of my favorite bits.

To begin, here’s the full list of the films I saw during our eight days:

  • Lion (seen in Salt Lake City)
  • Jackie (seen in Salt Lake City)
  • Dayveon
  • Lady Macbeth
  • The Discovery
  • Ingrid Goes West
  • Thoroughbred
  • Colossal
  • Lemon
  • Walking Out
  • Marjorie Prime
  • Band Aid
  • Burning Sands
  • Novitiate

So, over the course of the festival, I saw twelve films, attended three panels, and waited in a lot of lines. Below, I’ve given you some basic information about the films I most enjoyed and some other weird highlights of what happens when you go to a film festival in the mountains during some major snow. Enjoy!

The Films

First of all, I’m happy to say I had a very positive viewing experience at Sundance this year. Though I wasn’t completely blown away by any single film (like I was with Whiplash in 2014 and Manchester by the Sea in 2016), I also didn’t have any excessively negative reactions (I’m looking at you, Listen Up Philip and Wiener-Dog).

So here were my general favorites of the festival:

  • Dayveon, a realistic and quiet film about a young boy in Little Rock joining a gang. This is one to look for if you’re a fan of Moonlight.
  • Lady Macbeth, a Thomas Hardy-esque story of a young woman who marries a wealthy older man and has no qualms about using her new wealth and comfort to get exactly what she wants (featuring murder, sabotage, and a cute cat).
  • The Discovery, a film in which sci-fi and indie blend perfectly to create a world in which the Afterlife has been proven, and the national suicide rate has skyrocketed. This one will mess with all your expectations and leave your head spinning.
  • Thoroughbred, a dark comedy à la 90s classics like The Craft or Jawbreaker in which two wealthy high schoolers conspire to murder a parent. It’s all kinds of fun.
  • Lemon, a truly inexplicable film about a struggling actor and his odd life, featuring a song about matzoh balls that you will honestly never forget.
  • Band Aid, a quirky little comedy about a young married couple who decide, when counseling doesn’t help, to start a band and turn their fights into songs.

Overall, I’d say Lady Macbeth, The Discoveryand Band Aid were my real favorites. Thankfully, The Discovery makes its way to Netflix on March 31, and Lady Macbeth is set for a summer theatrical release.

Other Sundance Happenings

As I mentioned, I attended three panels during the festival, one of which provided me with a free copy of the first season of the Sundance TV drama Top of the Lake (I’m still very proud of winning this, if you can’t tell). But the real fun of Sundance for me—which I’m sure you know by now—is the people-watching, specifically since the people of Park City tend to be of the famous variety. This year, I again saw/met/stood awkwardly next to about 70 people of note. I won’t recount all of those sightings for you, but here are some of the best experiences. Check out the slideshow below for evidence.

  • I got to speak to Abbi Jacobson of “Broad City” and she was wonderful.
  • I was trapped outside a bathroom and nearly lost my spot in the waitlist line because Sam Elliott was standing next to me and I was apparently a threat to his well-being.
  • I was twice in close proximity to Robert Redford.
  • Laura Dern is a beauty and has great hair.
  • Standing next to Matt Bomer is like being next to a living Ken doll, except he’s nicer and more attractive and eats apples on-the-go.
  • I watched Dianna Agron get a severe scolding from a police officer because she didn’t use a crosswalk.
  • Laura Prepon is kind of scary and looks alienesque close-up.
  • Height-related matters: Jason Segel walked past me on the street and wasn’t as tall as I’d imagined. Tim Robbins is crazy tall. And Nicholas Hoult is taller than expected. Important facts!
  • Though traffic was too bad to arrive to the Women’s March on time from a film screening, I did get to rally with the remaining marchers. It was an emotional and encouraging experience.
  • I saw Gael García Bernal more days than I didn’t see him. At least five different days. And he is incredibly beautiful, though I have no photographic evidence to prove it. He wears cute glasses and a little headband and sits very still while watching movies. Maybe I’m too involved?
  •  I was very upset I hadn’t seen Peter Dinklage and was doing my best to find him. Then, for my last two film screenings, I literally sat right behind him. I defended him from a weirdo who kept hitting him with her coat. It was very exciting.
  • I stood in a waitlist line near Ryder Strong from “Boy Meets World” and caught him talking about me to his friend. It was weird and fun.
  • I ran into Nigel Barker several times because he was just, like, around (???), and I can say there’s significant reason he was a male model.
  • And finally…on my last night of the festival, I attended a concert featuring none other than Tony winner Daveed Diggs (of Hamilton fame), and on his thirty-fifth birthday, no less. And he was kind enough to take a picture with me.

I’m not sure I ever really thought I’d attend the Sundance Film Festival, but to have attended 3 times as a 25-year-old is not something I take for granted. Again, I am incredibly grateful for the people who have helped me get there (multiple times) and for the festival living up to my magical memories year after year. I hope to return many more times and share it with the people I love.

Until next time, Park City…

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2016 Movie List

 

Below is my complete movie viewing list for 2016. Titles listed in bold are those I particularly enjoyed.

  1. 01/01: Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (2016): A
  2. 01/01: Testament of Youth (2014): B-
  3. 01/02: Joy (2015): B
  4. 01/04: Black Mirror: White Christmas (2014): B
  5. 01/05: The Age of Adaline (2015): B
  6. 01/07: Nasty Baby (2015): C+
  7. 01/08: The Big Short (2015): A
  8. 01/08: Sicario (2015): B
  9. 01/17: Jurassic World (2015): C
  10. 01/20: Sundance Shorts Program 1
    1. So Good to See You: C+
    2. Killer: A
    3. Mobilize: B
    4. It’s Not You: B
    5. Speaking is Difficult: B+
    6. Maman(s): A
    7. The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere: A
    8. Catching Up: B+
  11. 01/20: Spotlight (2015): A-
  12. 01/20: Room (2015): A
  13. 01/22: Goat (2016): B
  14. 01/23: Wiener-Dog (2016): C-
  15. 01/24: Manchester by the Sea (2016): A
  16. 01/24: Yoga Hosers (2016): B
  17. 01/25: Lovesong (2016): B+
  18. 01/25: Complete Unknown (2016): C+
  19. 01/26: First Girl I Loved (2016): A
  20. 01/26: The Lobster (2015): A
  21. 01/29: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015): C
  22. 01/29: The Gift (2015): B-
  23. 02/04: Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List (2015): C+
  24. 02/04: The Last Five Years (2015): B-
  25. 02/05: The Revenant (2015): B
  26. 02/06: Bridge of Spies (2015): B
  27. 02/11: The Overnight (2015): B+
  28. 02/13: Mistress America (2015): F
  29. 02/18: The First Time (2012): B
  30. 02/19: Ricki and the Flash (2015): C
  31. 02/19: The Wolfpack (2015): B
  32. 02/21: The Witch (2015): A
  33. 02/24: LOL (2006): C
  34. 02/27: The Maltese Falcon (1941): C
  35. 03/04: Unfriended (2014): B
  36. 03/04: The Gallows (2015): C
  37. 03/04: Magic Mike XXL (2015): C
  38. 03/12: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (2016): B
  39. 03/16: Zipper (2015): C+
  40. 03/17: Ouija (2014): C-
  41. 04/09: The Danish Girl (2015): B
  42. 04/18: The Longest Ride (2015): C+
  43. 04/29: The Jungle Book (2016): B+
  44. 05/23: Everything is Copy (2016): B
  45. 06/04: Me Before You (2016): B+
  46. 06/16: Real Women Have Curves (2002): B
  47. 06/18: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958): B-
  48. 06/23: Rain Man (1988): A
  49. 06/25: Baby Boom (1987): B
  50. 06/28: The Scorch Trials (2015): C-
  51. 06/29: The Fundamentals of Caring (2016): B
  52. 06/29: Elizabeth (1998): C
  53. 07/01: Swiss Army Man (2016): A-
  54. 07/01: Big Night (1996): B
  55. 07/04: 1776 (1972): B-
  56. 07/04: The Hunting Ground (2015): A
  57. 07/04: The Imposter (2012): B
  58. 07/05: Tabloid (2010): B
  59. 07/05: Welcome to Leith (2012): B
  60. 07/06: She Loves Me (2016): B+
  61. 07/13: Miss Representation (2011): B
  62. 07/14: Horns (2013): F
  63. 07/14: Girl Rising (2013): B
  64. 07/25: Hollywoodland (2006): B-
  65. 08/13: The Lady in the Van (2015): B+
  66. 08/27: Florence Foster Jenkins (2016): B
  67. 09/02: The Light Between Oceans (2016): B+
  68. 09/03: Fruitvale Station (2013): A
  69. 09/18: Straight Outta Compton (2015): B
  70. 10/01: XOXO (2016): C
  71. 10/01: Beyond the Lights (2014): B+
  72. 10/01: A Royal Night Out (2015): C
  73. 10/07: The Girl on the Train (2016): B-
  74. 10/07: 13th (2016): A
  75. 10/08: Amanda Knox (2016): B
  76. 10/09: Audrie & Daisy (2016): B
  77. 10/14: Tangerine (2015): B+
  78. 10/14: Love & Friendship (2016): B+
  79. 10/14: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013): B+
  80. 10/15: Holy Hell (2016): B
  81. 10/20: Green Room (2016): A-
  82. 10/20: Midnight Special (2016): B
  83. 10/21: Hamilton’s America (2016): A
  84. 11/06: The Neon Demon (2016): C
  85. 11/12: Moonlight (2016): B+
  86. 11/17: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016): B
  87. 11/19: The Edge of Seventeen (2016): A
  88. 11/19: Morris from America (2016): C+
  89. 12/09: Hell or High Water (2016): C
  90. 12/09: Other People (2016): A
  91. 12/10: Rocky Balboa (2007): C-
  92. 12/11: Sense and Sensibility (1995): B+
  93. 12/12: Taxi Driver (1976): A-
  94. 12/13: The Station Agent (2003): A
  95. 12/14: Moana (2016): B+
  96. 12/15: The Sting (1973): B
  97. 12/16: Captain Fantastic (2016): B
  98. 12/17: Turner & Hooch (1989): B
  99. 12/25: La La Land (2016): A
  100. 12/26: Fences (2016): A
  101. 12/27: Deadpool (2016): A-
  102. 12/27: Hail, Caesar! (2016): B
  103. 12/29: The Fear of 13 (2015): C+

Favorite Movies of 2016

The year is wrapping up, which means the inevitable is happening—I’m spending my days reflecting on the best entertainment of the year. My “best of” compilation below is not a list of my favorite 2016 films, but of my favorite films I watched in 2016, meaning some have earlier release dates. Check my list (in order of when I saw them) and descriptions of each movie below. For reference, you can enjoy my full 2016 viewing list here.

What were the best films you watched in 2016?


Room (2015)

Though my initial impression of Room was not totally stellar (though I still really liked it), the more distance I had from the film, the more impressed with it I became. Brie Larson’s Oscar-winning performance as a young captive trying to raise a son and escape her confines is a must-see. The tension built in the climactic scenes is just as captivating as you find in the best thriller films. Despite having seen Room in early January, it’s a film I continue to think of regularly.

Manchester by the Sea (2016)

If you’ve had any kind of significant conversation with me in 2016, I probably mentioned this film (and now apologize for being annoying). I’m proud to say I attended the second screening of this film in the world at the Sundance Film Festival and have loved it since then. Manchester by the Sea features beautiful performances from Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, and Michelle Williams dealing with grief and forgiveness. It’s a cathartic, tragic, and funny film that is sure to continue winning awards into the new year.

The Lobster (2015)

The Lobster was the last screening I attended at Sundance this year, and it’s another film that has stuck with me through 2016. Word on the Sundance rumor mill was that The Lobster is a movie you know you’ll either love or hate within the first 10 minutes, and I think that’s pretty true. This darkly comic, dystopian little weirdo of a film features Colin Farrell in the lead role in a society where single people are sent to a hotel for 45 days in which to find a soulmate. If your allotted days expire, you’re turned into the animal of your choosing and released into the wild. I find The Lobster to be equal parts hilarious and disturbing, but maybe that’s not your thing.

The Witch (2015)

The Witch is another love-it-or-hate-it type that I also happened to love in 2016. When my roommate and I saw the film with a crowd of about 20 on a Sunday afternoon, it was clear that most other audience members hated what we saw as a creepy/cool film. Who knew a blank-faced goat would be one of the best movie villains of 2016?

Swiss Army Man (2016)

After hearing the resounding WTFs about this film at Sundance, I really had no idea what to expect from Swiss Army Man. When the most common plot description is that Daniel Radcliffe plays a farting corpse, it’s hard to know if you’ll like a film. Turns out, I loved it! Minus the final 10-15 minutes, but those are thoughts for a longer discussion. Swiss Army Man is visually stunning and weird as hell, but also a movie you aren’t likely to forget.

Green Room (2016)

I didn’t know about Green Room upon watching it except that there were neo-Nazis involved and most reviews were pretty stellar. Anyhoo, I was so very pleased to see this little weirdo that adds to the growing list of great indie horror/thriller films in recent years. Watching one of Anton Yelchin’s final performances is bittersweet, but it’s great to see a group of very unlikeable characters become the people you root hardest for. Also, Patrick Stewart’s “I’m a gross American” accent is not to be missed.

Moonlight (2016)

Like Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight is a film we’ll all continue to hear more about as awards season rounds out in early 2017, and deservedly so. While some say Moonlight is the absolute best film of the year, my preferences lie elsewhere, but I still see it as a profoundly moving and beautiful film. The section (since the story is told in three parts) I visit most often in my mind is the first in the film, when we see Chiron as a young boy with a mom who is just beginning to dig herself into the drugged darkness that later consumes her life. I think the main reason this sections stands out most to me is the presence of Blue, played brilliantly by Mahershala Ali. That the most stable person in young Chiron’s life is a drug dealer is heartbreaking, but I found myself wishing again and again that Blue was still there to help Chiron later on. I left the theatre feeling a bit muddled after this one, but it’s a film I’ve mentally returned to often.

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

There are few things I love more than a good coming-of-age story, and The Edge of Seventeen is an instant-classic in this genre. Hailee Steinfeld shines as Nadine, a girl who (like many teenagers) feels everything vividly. Nadine is smart and kind, but also kind of dumb and ridiculous and dramatic, but all in a way that makes you feel for her because we’ve all been there. Oddly enough, this is the film on this list that probably made me most consistently emotional, likely because it tells the story that sometimes feels truest to life.

Other People (2016)

Due to an unfortunate coincidence, I missed out on attending the world premiere of Other People at Sundance in January and wasn’t able to fit it into my other viewing times during the festival. But after hearing many people say it was their favorite film during our time in Utah, I made sure to watch it as soon as I could. Other People is the rare movie that can make you laugh and cry with equal intensity, and neither emotion feels out of place in this film about a gay comedian who moves home to be with his mother in her final year of life. Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon give outstanding performances in the lead roles (seriously, Golden Globes, where are their nominations?). Though the basic plot of the film might seem cliche or expected, this is one of the most honest and realistic films I’ve seen in a long time. It allows you to both laugh hard and cry hard without either emotion feeling cheap or incorrect.

La La Land (2016)

As soon as teaser trailers were released for this film, I was dying to see it. The combined force of Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, and Damian Chazelle was enough to get me excited about it, so the fact that it’s topped so many “best of the year” lists only made me more anxious to get myself to this film as soon as I could. Thankfully, I spent a joyous Christmas afternoon in the theatre for this one, and I wasn’t remotely disappointed. The film is beautiful visually and thematically, and Stone and Gosling give outstanding performances and performers trying to make it in Hollywood. If you aren’t charmed by this movie, you might not even be human.

Fences (2016)

When you combine August Wilson’s best work with performances by Denzel Washington (who also directed) and Viola Davis, there isn’t much to do but start handing over awards. Of course these two give stellar performances—they did win Tonys for it, after all—and, even though I’ve read Fences twice before and plan to teach it this semester, I’m still astounded by the emotional force of Wilson’s writing. Washington maintains the simplicity of a stage production in the film, which I appreciated, and the combined effect of the ensemble is what makes the film a real knockout. I would be shocked if Davis doesn’t win every award she’s eligible for this season.


Honorable Mentions: Goat (2016), Rain Man (1988), The Light Between Oceans (2016), Fruitvale Station (2013), 13th (2016), Hamilton’s America (2016), Moana (2016), Deadpool (2016)

When the only things in life that matter are Hamilton and Manic Pixie Dream Girls

Hello, world.

It’s March. What? I haven’t written anything very substantial here since my Sundance reflection, but I can’t believe more than a month has gone by since then. Apparently teaching and writing a thesis require more of my attention than blogging.

Speaking of those things… yes, my life these days is about scrambling through the last bits of writing on my thesis (defense is March 24 and I’m currently sitting on 101 pages, no biggie) and teaching English to two classes of college freshmen. Both are at times infuriating and exhilarating. I’m incredibly thankful for a semester that allows me two things to focus on that inspire me, but boy, do I yearn for a day to just watch TV without feeling guilty.

Thankfully, I’m enjoying a bit more free time this week with spring break. Since I pride myself on my reading and watching skills, here’s a quick update on the things I’ve been enjoying lately.

Books–Because I’ve been preparing for my oral exam that comes with defending my thesis, lots of my reading this year has just been rereading. I’ve also done a pretty significant number of plays lately. I love reading plays anyway, but I think this choice is more representative of my short attention span as I start to worry about the other things I should be doing rather than recreational reading.

As for things I’ve really liked, I completely loved reading the Collected Sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay for my oral exam. I’ve never been a poetry reader, so the fact that I enjoyed this so much feels like real character development. I also really loved reading Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play ‘Night, Mother and definitely bawled my way through the final 10 pages when I finished it yesterday morning. I have plans to read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go now, which I’ve already started, but I’m having a hard time concentrating with the other things floating in my head. Hopefully I’ll make more progress soon. As of today, I’m 20 books into 2016, so I think I’m doing okay regardless.

TV–Since finishing Pushing Daisies and season two of Transparent in February, I haven’t started a new streaming show (again, too many other things to be concerned with). I’m also in a happy place with the TV that’s currently airing–I’m keeping up with Bob’s Burgers, Girls, Last Man on Earth, Jane the Virgin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Broad City, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson. The upcoming returns of Outlander, Veep, and Game of Thrones also have me ridiculously excited, so I’m hoping time moves a little quicker in April.

Movies–Starting the year at Sundance certainly helped my film-watching this year; I’ve already seen 36 new (to me) films so far. Nothing recently has been too exceptional except for The Witch, which is just so fun and weird you can’t help but enjoy it. I also rewatched Room last week after first seeing it in January and enjoyed it even more the second time. I’ve been thinking about it often since, and I think that says a lot about its quality.

Now that I’ve written this, I’m realizing that life has been pretty quiet for me lately–except when I’m blaring the Hamilton soundtrack in my car, which is often. If all goes well, I’ll be writing again in a few weeks, having finished my thesis (!!!) and enjoying the downward slope toward graduation.

See you soon!

2016 Sundance Film Festival: Another Magical Adventure

Hello, world! I started writing this post one week ago, as I sat in the Salt Lake City airport waiting for a flight to bring me home. This week has been the perfect time for reflecting on the magic of the 8 days that I spent in Utah. What a journey it was!

Between January 19 and January 27, I saw 10 feature films, 8 short films, watched a season of television, attended 4 panels, and basked in the presence of more than 70 celebrities.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is life at the Sundance Film Festival.

Now that I’ve returned home, where I’m in the thick of my final semester of grad school and my first semester as a course instructor, I’m excited to share with you a bit of insight into the joys of returning to Sundance.

So, without further ado, here are the highlights of my second Sundance adventure.

We flew out on Tuesday, January 19 and arrived to Park City amid a snow storm (thanks to our MVP Le Bus driver, Larry, for delivering us safely) that evening. The real adventuring didn’t begin until the following morning, when we ventured to Main Street in Park City, the unofficial hub of Sundance. We also made this journey in more serious snow, but it at least made for some lovely photos of the Egyptian theatre.

IMG_1880.JPGFor the rest of Wednesday, we made our way back down the mountain to Salt Lake City, where we had the freedom to roam and enjoy a movie and meal on WKU’s dime (which is now officially my favorite activity). We spent time in a great, cheap little theater run by the Salt Lake Film Society where I was able to see both Spotlight and Room over the course of the day. I also wandered past the monstrous Mormon temple and through a bit more of downtown Salt Lake before we went back up to Park City. I was so happy for the chance to squeeze in another couple of the Oscar-nominated films, and it felt like the perfect way to pre-game for the festival.

Thursday, January 21

Thursday the 21st was the first official day of the festival. I began the day with an early trip to the box office, where I had the bad fortune of being the first person in line not to get tickets to the festival’s opening night film, so that was a big bummer. That’s one I’ll have to catch later, and based on others’ recommendations, it’s well worth it (the movie is Other People, for reference).

However, Thursday wasn’t a total bust. After attending the festival in 2014, I felt a little disappointed at never having seen Robert Redford, who founded the festival 32 years ago. Luckily, a few of us caught sight of him leaving the festival’s opening day press conference and were able to say a quick hello before he left (my mom’s comment on this occurrence: “you got to see him smile?” because we all know what a gift that is).

That evening, after being unable to purchase tickets earlier, I attempted the e-waitlists for both of the opening night films: the documentary Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You and the feature film Other People (no luck in either case, sadly). However, for the second film, I happened to arrive at the theater just as its cast did, so I was able to begin my favorite hobby of stargazing. At the allowance of a very kind festival volunteer, I was able to sneak into a very close spot, but I’m going to blame my crappy and/or nonexistent photos on my excitement at the revelry.

My favorite moment of the night, though, was witnessing a lovely little Friday Night Lights reunion between Jesse Plemons and Jurnee Smollett-Bell. There was lots of excited yelling and hugging and discussion of upcoming jobs. And no one but me (and those involved) seemed to appreciate it! What a nice moment.

Celebrity sightings: Robert Redford, Adam Scott, Jesse Plemons, Judd Apatow, Maude Apatow, Molly Shannon, Jurnee Smollett-Bell

Friday, January 22

Since I was unlucky in screenings on Thursday, Friday was my real start to the festival, and I began my time attending the Shorts Package 1 screening at the Egyptian in the morning. During my previous experience, I neither attended a shorts package nor any screening at the Egyptian, so this was a great way to build my Sundance experiences, and the shorts themselves were quite enjoyable overall. My favorites were Killer, a story about a boy who masturbates for the first time with some unexpected and serious repercussions, Maman(s), a beautiful Senegalese film about a young girl facing the reality that her parents are imperfect, and The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere, a joyful (and weirdly weepy) documentary about a winless Japanese racehorse.

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Norman Lear and Lena Dunham during the first Cinema Cafe panel

A big part of my reasoning for attending this screening specifically was my desire to be close to Main Street to get a good spot in line for the first of the Cinema Café panels: a conversation between Norman Lear and Lena Dunham. Thankfully, my plan was successful, and I got to spend a delightful hour in the company of two of TV’s most influential figures.

Later on Friday, I happened to run across the cast of Other People again, and got to have a lovely little chat with Jesse Plemons, who, after I told him how much I loved his season of Fargo, stopped and walked over to me to talk about it. We agreed that Kirsten Dunst was wonderful and discussed his reunion with Jurnee from the previous night. And as he started to walk away, he turned back and asked my name, shook my hand, and said how nice it had been to meet me. So, we’re friends now. Definitely.

I also spent a weird minute or two following Nick Jonas up Main Street, because, as a long-time Jonas Brothers fanatic, there’s really no other appropriate response to finding one of them. I was also lucky enough, that night, to get into the world premiere of Goat, the movie Nick was there to promote. Goat is both a physically and psychologically brutal portrayal of fraternity hazing that speaks to larger issues of masculinity and male identity. Nick Jonas and Ben Schnetzer both gave stand-out performances as the film’s lead actors. After seeing this film, I think it’s safe to say Nick will continue to surprise the entertainment world with his talents. Also, in a weird turn of events, I ended up exiting the screening of Goat with Lena Dunham and the Apatows (because somehow we were always in the same places), so I told Lena quickly about my thesis project. She vocalized her support and gave me a friendly arm rub, so I think I’m on the path to success.

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Director Andrew Neel, stars Nick Jonas and Ben Schnetzer, and the ensemble from Goat

Though Friday was an all-around great day, the undisputed highlight goes to… My third encounter with Daniel Radcliffe. I don’t know what I’ve done in life to be so utterly lucky, but, after failing to secure a spot in the premiere screening of the controversial Swiss Army Man, I hung out at the back of the Eccles theater, the biggest of Sundance’s venues, to see the cast depart. We first watched U.S. Dramatic Competition jury members Jon Hamm and Lena Dunham leave the screening and act like the weirdos they are, which was particularly entertaining. And then Daniel came out, started taking pictures, and after we got a photo, I was able to thank him for being so kind each time we’ve met. He was (of course) gracious, asking where we’d met before, and told me he’s likely returning to Broadway soon (which I think is very important information), and shook my hand and said he was happy to have met me again.

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As evidenced by this photo, sometimes lightning strikes thrice.

There’s a specific joy in meeting such a person as him, who’s been such an important part of my life, and I can’t believe I was fortunate enough to do it a third time.

Celebrity sightings: Abigail Spencer, Norman Lear, Lena Dunham, Adam Scott, Judd Apatow, Maude Apatow, Jesse Plemons, Molly Shannon, Nick Jonas, Ben Schnetzer, Jon Hamm, Daniel Radcliffe, Paul Dano, Julianne Nicholson

Saturday, January 23

Saturday was both a great day and a bummer. I only saw one film Saturday, and it was my least favorite of the festival: Todd Solondz’s Wiener-Dog, an unfunny and bizarre story of the lives through which one dachshund weaves. The film is told in vignettes of sorts, but the only one really worth watching is the third in the film, which stars Danny DeVito. Tracy Letts and Julie Delpy give awful performances in the opening scenes, Greta Gerwig is an unbelievable nerdy vet tech with a long-lasting crush on Kieran Culkin, and Zosia Mamet gives a sweet performance as Ellen Burstyn’s burn-out granddaughter. For anyone considering this movie, let me just warn you: despite how the film is advertised, it’s not meant for animal lovers. Even if you enjoy it (like many of my fellow audiences members seemed to), the ending shots undo any joy you might experience. This is a film with unnecessarily gratuitous and vulgar shots that make me more disgusted and annoyed the more I think about it.

Okay, rant over.

So, the good part of Saturday was that it’s the best day during the festival for celebrity following, so I was in my glory. After attending the morning’s lackluster screening, I traveled to Main Street to practice my favorite hobby, and ended up being quite successful.

Though it’s always fun to see a celebrity walk by, I had a couple favorite experiences of the day. First, seeing Kyle Chandler up close and personal was, you know, okay. Even better than seeing Kyle Chandler alone, though, was seeing another Friday Night Lights reunion with Jesse Plemons. Upon their exit from the studio, things got weird. First, Kyle Chandler came out and immediately started discussing The Simpsons with someone. Then, when I asked Jesse for a photo since I’d missed that opportunity the day before, he agreed, but as he leaned in for the photo, Casey Affleck came around the corner, saying, “yeah, take a picture with Jesse,” and proceeded to grab my wrist and wave my hand around.

Because I don’t know the proper etiquette when a famous person touches you and acts like a (well-intentioned) weirdo, I’m pretty sure the only thing I said in response was “thank you, Casey Affleck.” Not my smoothest moment.

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My friendship with Jesse Plemons is very real.

Later than afternoon, I was able to connect with another person of interest for my thesis project: Zoe Kazan, who also wished me luck and thanked me for using her as a source.

Other fun highlights from the day: pushing a timid fan to meet Viggo Mortensen and seeing her cry happy tears when he hugged her; arguing with a dumb guy who was convinced Abigail Spencer was actually Evangeline Lilly; watching Kate Beckinsale float around like the beautiful angel she is; standing next to a confused Jared Harris for a few minutes while he checked his phone

Celebrity sightings: Bradley Whitford, Nick Jonas, Rebecca Hall, Tracy Letts, Michael C. Hall, Judd Apatow, Maude Apatow, Timothy Simons, Chelsea Handler, J. Smith-Cameron, Kyle Chandler, Casey Affleck, John Legend, Gilbert Gottfried, Charlie Day, John Krasinski, Josh Groban, Don Cheadle, David Giuntoli, Jesse Plemons, George Mackay, Margo Martindale, Chloë Sevingy, Kate Beckinsale, Rose Macgowan, Abigail Spencer, Viggo Mortensen, Bryce Dallas Howard, Abby Elliott, Chris Elliott, Greta Gerwig, Jena Malone, Adrian Grenier, Paul Dano, Jared Harris, Zoe Kazan

Sunday, January 24

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The cast and crew of Manchester by the Sea

Thankfully, Sunday morning’s screening was my favorite of the festival and very much made up for my Wiener-Dog annoyance. I attended Manchester by the Sea, a film that’s been the clear festival favorite (it wasn’t in competition, so it wasn’t eligible for the Grand Jury or Audience awards) and one that will almost certainly be on the awards circuit next year.

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Being friends with Kyle Chandler

The film tells the story of Lee Chandler (played wonderfully by Casey Affleck), an isolated man who becomes guardian of his teenage nephew after his brother’s death (Kyle Chandler plays the brother in flashbacks). This is the kind of movie that emotionally wrecks you, but it’s totally worth the temporary turmoil.

After the screening, I managed to nab a quick (and not so great, sadly) photo with Kyle Chandler, and we bonded over how great the movie was.

After the screening, I went back to Main Street to pass some time before hopefully attending an afternoon panel. In the meantime, I saw several people come and go, including Anderson Cooper and the cast of Kevin Smith’s Yoga Hosers (more on that film in a minute). Also, while walking to go get a bagel, I passed Chrissy Teigen on the street, and the beautiful bombshell you’ve all been imagining.

I was happy to attend a panel on the controversial film Swiss Army Man Sunday afternoon, but sad that the panel didn’t even last 30 minutes. Though the film had a significant number of walk-outs during its premiere on Friday, hearing the cast and crew talk about it–and the motivation behind the “farting corpse” everyone’s been talking about–made it seem a bit more understandable.

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Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano during the Swiss Army Man panel

After returning to my hotel for a late evening nap (only at Sundance do you take a nap from 8-10 PM), I made my way to the Library theater for the premiere screening of Kevin Smith’s latest film, Yoga Hosers. The film itself is bizarre and mediocre, but being part of the premiere screening and sitting directly in front of the film’s cast made it a great experience. Yoga Hosers stars Smith’s daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, and Johnny Depp’s daughter, Lily-Rose, as self-obsessed teenage store clerks forced to take on an unexpected enemy. Smith himself described the movie as “a superhero movie without the superheroes.” It certainly isn’t great, but it’s fun and silly and entertaining if you’re in the right mood. After a long and emotional introductory speech and Q&A by Kevin Smith and the cast, I arrived back to my hotel room around 2:45 AM, ready to crash.

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The cast of Yoga Hosers during the film’s post-screening Q&A

Other fun highlights of the day: making Justin Long laugh when I told him he’s a good Hollywood Game Night player, physically bonding with Sam Neill as we stood back-to-back while he was hounded for autographs, eavesdropping on Lily-Rose Depp while she talked about her dad

Celebrity sightings: Kyle Chandler, Casey Affleck, Lena Dunham, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Allison Brie, Nick Kroll, Anderson Cooper, Justin Long, Tyler Posey, Austin Butler, Kevin Smith, Harley Quinn Smith, Lily-Rose Depp, Sam Neill, Timothy Simons, Tracy Letts, Jason Mewes, Chrissy Teigen, Daniel Radcliffe, Paul Dano, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Matthew Gray Gubler, Natasha Lyonne, Chloë Sevigny, Sasheer Zamata

Monday, January 25

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The cast and crew of Lovesong

After a very late night, I let myself sleep in and attended a 12:15 screening of the premiere of Lovesong, a lovely little movie starring Jena Malone and Riley Keough (though the daughters of the film director who have small roles totally steal the show). One of the film’s nicest surprises was a time and location jump that shifted to Nashville. It’s always nice to see an unexpected and familiar landscape.

Following the screening, a friend and I made our way to the theater’s back entrance and took photos with Jena Malone, who was sweet and cute and very pregnant. Since we have the same birthday, I assume we’re soul sisters or something.

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Another new friendship!

We also hung around a bit as the cast and crew of Nate Parker’s Grand Jury and Audience Award-winning The Birth of a Nation arrived, but it was apparently very difficult to get into the screening. While we walked back to the bus stop, this picture happened (please excuse my mitten fuzz as I was staring into the sun and couldn’t see what I was doing while I took this).

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Park City is pretty.

After relaxing a bit in my hotel, I ventured out again with a good waitlist number for the premiere of Complete Unknown, which left me less than impressed. I was very excited by the cast–the festival guide listed Rachel Weisz, Michael Shannon, Kathy Bates, and Danny Glover as leads–but the film itself annoyed me for many reasons, and the more I’ve thought about it since, the more I find to be annoyed about (Have you ever known someone to apply to an elite jewelry school? Yeah, me neither). As it turns out, this was one of the most Manic Pixie Dream Girl movies of the festival, which I certainly didn’t expect. While it seemed like plenty of people enjoyed the film, this one wasn’t for me.

Celebrity sightings: Jena Malone, Riley Keough, Brooklyn Decker, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Armie Hammer, Gabrielle Union, Nate Parker, Michael Shannon

Tuesday, January 26

On our last day at the festival, I tried to make the most of my time. The morning began with an early screening of First Girl I Loved, which turned out to be another of my very favorites. This is a very real story of Anne, a high school student who’s realizing she has a crush on a girl for the first time. Dylan Gelula and Brianna Hildebrand both give great performances as the film’s leads.

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The cast and crew of First Girl I Loved

Perhaps the most emotional moment of the screening was during the Q&A when a teary audience member said she wished a film like this had existed for her while in high school and asked about getting queer representation in screen. Needless to say, the whole room was in tears after that.

After eating a free brunch (thanks, Chase Sapphire on Main!), I attended two panels on Main Street. The first featured the creative teams behind the films Morris from America and White Girl, neither of which I saw at the festival, but I hope to see them in the coming months.

After seeing another batch of celebrities leaving the Variety studio (hey again, Jason Ritter and Melanie Lynskey!), I attended my final panel of the festival: a discussion of the film Mr. Pig, featuring director Diego Luna and actors Maya Rudolph and Danny Glover. The film hadn’t yet premiered, but it definitely sound like one worth seeing. Who doesn’t want to watch those two costar with a giant pig?

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Panel on Mr. Pig

My final screening of the festival was thankfully another great one: Yorgos Lanthmos’s bizarre The Lobster. This film premiered at Cannes in 2015 and was just as joyfully strange as I’d hoped. A chubby Colin Farrell stars as David, a recently single man who must check into a singles hotel where he has 45 days to find a mate or be turned into the animal of his choice and released into the wild. The film is darkly comic and strange, but one I totally enjoyed (though I imagine it’s not for everyone).

Then, after a class dinner, I returned to my hotel for a quiet night before getting up early for our flight home (weird airport moment: seeing Moises Arias from Hannah Montana who looks like he may or may not be a murderer).

Celebrity sightings: Dylan Gelula, Lewis Black, Jason Ritter, Ben Schwartz, Melanie Lynskey, Clea Duvall, Diego Luna, Danny Glover, Maya Rudolph, Keith Stanfield, Samm Levine, Mateo Arias, Moises Arias

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Needless to say, Sundance 2016 was another magical whirlwind, an another joyous experience I’ll treasure forever. Thank you SO much to the wonderful people at WKU for allowing me to return to Park City. Though I’ve always followed Sundance coverage, I never imagined I’d be able to attend the festival twice before turning 25. Thank you to everyone who made this experience possible.

Until next time, Sundance.

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And suddenly it’s December

Well, world, I have a strange announcement–I have finished my last semester of coursework for my master’s degree (and managed to pull off an unexpected feat of earning all As!). Since it’s been such a marathon, I think I’d forgotten how nice it might feel to reach this point, and now that I’ve come to it, I’m not really sure what to do with my freedom.

Sadly, the fact that I’ve been less-than-free this semester means I haven’t maintained my blog like I usually do. Now that I have the time, though, I can finally share some of the highlights of my semester.

I’ve made significant progress on my master’s thesis this semester thanks to a fantastic advisor who keeps me on track. I’m loving writing it, which means it’s only a little upsetting to know how far I still have to go before finishing it. As a reminder, I’m writing about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope in indie films. If you’re wondering what those words might mean, I did a post about it this summer that you should mostly certainly check out.

I’ve also had the strangely adult experience of prepping for my very first courses as a college instructor. Next spring, I’ll have 44 students in my very own classroom in the basement of Cherry Hall, and I can’t wait for it. I loved my time shadowing a wonderful instructor this semester who helped me figure myself out along the way. It’s so strange that it’s nearly my time to stand front of a group I get to call my own.

And somehow, in the midst of the chaos, we wrangled up enough students to head back the the Sundance Film Festival next month. I’ll be going along as a TA in pursuit of hands-on research for my thesis project and hope to see some great films along the way. Sundance was the most magical experience of my life thus far, so the chance to head back and do it all again is exceptionally exciting.

Now, for those of you who know me, it comes as no surprise that I simply cannot try to explain what my life has been like lately without also telling you the things I’ve been reading and watching. Here’s a crash course in my latest pop culture feelings.

Books — This semester wasn’t exactly the best for leisurely reading, but I did manage to squeeze in a few fun projects on the way. Just last night my roommate and I finished reading Dracula together, which was a long-term, laugh-filled, wonderful experience. I also recently reread Harriet the Spy, which I hadn’t read in at least 15 years (and I can’t believe I’m old enough to say that). For those of you who haven’t read it, Harriet the Spy is pure joy, so go get your hands on a copy!

Over Thanksgiving break, I rewarded myself by reading Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You, a sweet and sad romantic story that’s perfect for some hours spent in a world that isn’t your own. And as of last night, I started Doctor Sleep, Stephen King’s follow-up to The Shining, though since it’s a long book, I may end up doubling it with something else. We’ll see.

TV — This fall, I decided to be bold and write off several of the shows I’d previously watched, but mostly out of obligation. Turns out my viewing schedule is now much freer, which can be quite the blessing. Without a doubt, the show I’ve most looked forward to from week to week is FX’s Fargo. If you haven’t been watching, you’re crazy and need to change that habit immediately. I’m also loving Sunday nights on FOX with Bob’s Burgers and Last Man on Earth, and I’ve stuck with Empire, though the second season hasn’t nearly lived up to the first. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is another little gem of a TV show that I hope you’re all watching, and the fact that it’s paired with Jane the Virgin on Mondays on the CW makes the viewing experience all the sweeter.

As for side projects, I’ve continued to make my way through as much bingeing as I could hope for. My roommate and I watched the first season of Outlander together on DVD (which I also watched as it aired) and then, just yesterday, finished My So-Called Life together. Both of these shows are now invited to provide me with more episodes ASAP because I miss them dearly.

I also quickly worked through Jessica Jones last week and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Krysten Ritter is a gem and David Tennant is a perfect villain. What more could you want?

My longer viewing project these days is The O.C., which I’ve long been interested in but didn’t have access to until it recently became available on the CW Seed for FREE! It’s a fun, silly teen show, which is totally a guilty pleasure of mine, so I’m enjoying it thoroughly.

Now that my time is freer, I’m hoping to spend some time catching up on shows I’ve missed out on, like USA’s Mr. Robot, especially after today’s Golden Globe nominations. I also imagine my mom and I will marathon through a few things, so stay tuned for updates on that.

Movies — Sadly, I’ve been lacking in the movie-watching department lately. I hit my goal of watching 100 new (to me) movies a few months ago, but I haven’t made tons of progress past that goal. However, I’m hoping to see a few of the Oscar-bait movies before year’s end and catch up on some things I missed earlier in the year. Some recent highlights in my movie-viewing experience have been We Need to Talk About Kevinwhich is disturbing in the best kind of way, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2which was a fitting end to the saga.

So now that this life of mine is freer for leisurely reading and watching, I plan to take full advantage of it (though I’ll also be doing my fair share of academic work during these weeks off). Happy Holidays, everyone! May you enjoy your time to relax as much as I intend to enjoy mine.

Book #57: The Diary of a Teenage Girl, by Phoebe Gloeckner

Hello, long lost blog world! It’s been too long.

This may be self explanatory, but school has kept me so insanely busy that there hasn’t been much time for writing blog updates. Every weekend I think about how I’d like to write something and then it just doesn’t happen. In this final push at the tail end of the semester, though, I’m going to do my best to keep up.

Last night I finished The Diary of a Teenage Girl, a book I’ve been enjoying for a while as my recreational reading project. I really enjoyed the film adaptation when I saw it in August, so after (finally) getting my first paycheck at the end of September, I treated myself to the book on which the film was based.

I think the most endearing aspect of the novel (which is also part memoir, but Gloeckner asks us to read this book as fiction) is heroine Minnie Goetze’s voice; she’s charming and funny and insecure and vulnerable–much like all of us at the age of fifteen. Parts of the story are disturbing, but I’d definitely recommend this work.

Now that one of my five current reading projects is crossed off the list, my next goal if the weekend is to finish Doris Pilkington’s Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence for a presentation next week. Stay tuned for more posts soon!